Friday, June 01, 2007

More Songs To Learn And Sing #1

Welcome back to this almost grand old idea, then. In case you missed all this, the deal is a set of people, twenty in this run over the next twenty days, are recommending a song that they reckon everyone should hear, and for a limited period we'll be hosting an mp3 of it so you can make up your own mind. The first run started with a blogger called Simon (er, that'll be us, then) and thus so does this one - Simon from the magnificent, especially since we stopped contributing to it, No Rock And Roll Fun.

The Siddeleys - Wherever You Go

Leaving aside the similarity to being lectured by Jesus about getting too involved with the church, Stephen Pastel's dismissal of the Sha-La-La and Sarah Records team as being "a load of paranoid virgins" always rankled because the the image of frightened bunny-rabbits never really fitted.

Yes, there was much that came out of the fanzine-distributed flexi label Sha-La-La and its legendary offspring that justified filing under "twee", but the real stock-in-trade of the bands who turned up inside the two-colour sleeves was love, sex and death. And revenge. The songtitles might have invoked summer, the labels might have featured flowers, but the lyrics? They weren't so sweet.

Anyone who's heard Another Sunny Day doing You Should All Be Murdered, Harvey William's death-threat shitlist, would be less taken with the jolly name of his band, more thankful that these guys were measuring out their frustrations in seven inches and not point 45 calibers. And although Heavenly's Amelia Fletcher might have ended up as a government statistician, trading one anorak for another, their songs were packed with sex, scares, bisexuality as a fashion item, revenge and violence.

If anything, the music was coming down heavily on the side of "loved and lost" rather than "never loved at all"; for every I'm In Love With A Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist there was another song crouched waiting for the lines on a pregnancy test to show, and two more caught in relationships with the wrong people.

The Siddeleys - led by the remarkable Johnny Johnson - are a pretty good example of how the whole thing was closer to the kitchen sink drama than the bedroom fantasist. Wherever You Go was their first recording, a Sha-La-La flexidisc which fell out of a enevlope with a copy of Trout Fishing in Leytonstone a couple of days after the hurricane had ripped along the South Coast. Coming in at a shade under three minutes (obviously; this was a time and a place where a pop song that went over 360 seconds seemed as absurd as anything Rick Wakeman might have produced in his pomp), Johnson packs in a lyric which weighs the tension between really, really wanting someone, and the worries of them not really being good enough for you, or maybe you for them; knowing that you're better off out of it, but not being able to stop wading in deeper, and, ultimately, just wishing the bitterest revenge on the person who's making you feel this way. It's jangly, it's impossible to listen to without being transported back to that point in your teenage years where you can't believe this jangle of emotions, connections, stickiness and wrong-headed hormones will ever let you resolve yourself into a proper relationship and, to be fair, much less the work of a paranoid virgin than, say, writing a song about trains and tractors.


ally. said...

you may like the siddeleys special happening right now over at


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